quark

Welp, it looks like it’s time for my weekly dairy post! How about we tackle . . . quark?

QUARK!

(Note: “quark” is best vocalized loud and fast, like a cross between a goat’s bleat, a duck’s quack, and a dog’s bark: QUARK! Go on, try it. See? Wasn’t that fun?)

I didn’t know anything about quark — QUARK! — until a few weeks ago. Turns out, it’s a German soft cheese, sibling to the French fromage blanc (or frais, or whatever), and similar to cream cheese but made with milk instead of cream. It’s actually a lot like the yogurt cheese I make but without the yogurty tang (and the extra step of making the yogurt). 

Quark yields a gratifyingly large amount: nearly two pouds per gallon of milk if you have high-fat milk (our Daisy milk only yields 1 pound 5 ounces). Also, it’s extremely simple: culture plus time, that’s it. If you plan things right, you’ll actually be asleep for the majority of the process.

Quark requires mesophilic starter which is expensive BUT I’ve learned that I can save the whey from the quark and use that as my mesophilic starter for futures quark, cottage cheese, monterey jack, etc. It’s brilliant! (Locals, I’ve got plenty and am willing to share.)

Since quark differs enough from cream cheese that we don’t use it as a substitute, at least not for fresh eating, figuring out how to use the quark has been a little challenging.

So far, I’ve used quark…
*in place of ricotta for lasagna-type dishes: fabulous.
*baked French toast: since I can detect a slight different flavor, I thought the kids might fuss, but they gobbled it up, syrup is magic. Also, since quark crumbles kinda like feta, it was way easier to layer with the bread — no sticky cream cheese to swear at!
*quiche: perfect.
*cheesecake: lovely.

baked fresh toast

leek and sausage, with a few fistfuls of quark and some leftover cuajada

I was skeptical about the cheesecake. I mean, I do already have the recipe for the perfect classic cheesecake in my files, and there was no way, I thought, a milk-based cheese with a slight texture could possibly compete, right? Right. EXCEPT, cheesecake made with quark is altogether different. More dense, and with a slight tang, it’s less like a dessert and more like a nutritious food. Like if we’re comparing cheesecakes to breads, a classic cheesecake would be a brioche while cheesecake made with quark would be a rustic wholegrain sourdough. Both are delicious.

Eating the cheesecake, one of my girlfriends actually got emotional — Oh, Jennifer, she whispered, her eyes welling up (or did I imagine that?), this is incredible! — and another declared she liked it even better than regular cheesecake. Cheesecake of the traditional sort, she said, is so rich she can only handle a couple bites, but this? This now, she could do.

My husband and I agree that this cheese requires a tart fruit sauce, and lots of it. For our small group supper the other night, I served the cake with sugared peach slices and they just didn’t pack the right punch. However, the leftover berry drizzle that I brought home from the diner (that they used on their weekend waffles) was perfect, as would be this red raspberry sauce. Saucy and bright, that’s the goal.

Quark
Adapted from Kate’s recipe at Venison for Dinner.

Save a quart of the quark’s whey to use in other cheesemaking recipes that call for mesophilic starter, like cottage cheese and monterey jack. (I generally substitute about ¼ cup whey for every ⅛ teaspoon of dry culture.) The whey should hold in the fridge for at least three weeks, and maybe longer. 

1 gallon milk
¼ cup whey saved from making cheese with mesophilic culture 
(OR ⅛ teaspoon dry mesophilic culture)
2 drops rennet mixed with 2 tablespoons cool water
1 teaspoon salt, non-iodized

In the evening before bed: 
Heat the milk to 85 degrees. Gently stir in the whey, and then the diluted rennet. Pour the mixture into a gallon jar (or keep it in the kettle), lid, and let sit at room temperature overnight, approximately 12-14 hours. 

In the morning:
Using a long serrated bread knife, roughly cut the curd into squares. Let sit for 5 minutes. Pour the curd into a cheesecloth-lined strainer (don’t forget to save some of the whey for your next batch!), tie up the ends, and hang for about six hours. 

Dump the cheese — QUARK! — into a bowl and stir in the salt (I’ve used as little as a half teaspoon and as much as two). Transfer to the fridge — it should hold for about three weeks — and use it in recipes that call for cream cheese or ricotta.

One gallon of milk should yield about 1½ to 2 pounds of quark, depending on the fat content of your milk.  

German Cheesecake 
(because “Quark Cheesecake” just sounds wrong)

Use this recipe, but substitute quark for the cream cheese, and double up on the fruit sauce.

This same time, years previous: full circle, fresh nectarine galette, the quotidian (8.24.15), that special date, 16, coming up for air, fourteen years, the mater question.

11 Comments

  • Becky R.

    I have been thinking of making quark for quite some time, but I was unable to come up with enough ways to use it to justify my urge. I was drawn to it because it is milder in taste that many other ferments. You have given me lots to think about! So, your quiche was made without eggs? Just quark as the glue that holds it together? And, how long do you think that quark will last in the frig? You are a wonder of making, Jennifer.

  • Anna

    My favorite way to eat quark is on an open faced sandwich: toasted good quality bread spread generously with quark and then layered with sautéed kale and a crispy fried egg. Heavenly!

  • Kathrin

    Hi, oh, lovely post! Writing from Europe – yes, Quark is one of the most versatile and economical dairy products available in the shops. You can buy Quark with different fat contents, and that really makes a huge difference; the lower the fat content, the drier and tangier the Quark.
    Traditional Käsekuchen recipes differ greatly across Germany, and it can be the subject of passionate discussion. Some recipes call for another type of cheese, called Schichtkäse, others for saure Sahne (similar to sour cream), or cream. A handful of raisins macerated in rum is an excellent addition. Whatever you do, the end result should never be really sweet, the texture should be quite dense and the surface well browned. As for the crust – shortcrust pastry is traditional. There’s nothing dainty about a proper Käsekuchen, it is quite substantial. As a German living abroad I can also tell you that no other cake evokes the same feelings of nostalgia and Heimweh (home sickness) 🙂
    If I may add – Quark makes for great fruit bakes. Mix with semolina, a bit of sugar, milk, egg yolks, add stiffly beaten egg whites, pour over fruit in a well buttered baking dish, bake in a slow oven.
    Apologies for the long comment! Greetings from Norway (where there’s also Quark, but, alas, no Käsekuchen)!

  • Liz Lockhart

    My mum bakes an incredible German cheesecake with quark, her neighbour gave her the recipe when they lived in Germany early 70s. Would you like the recipe? It’s quite different almost clean on the palate.

      • Liz Lockhart

        Sorry for the delay! Mum came to stay for the first time in 18m – she’s normally here most weekends but has had to self isolate. She is clinically vulnerable and they were unsure if she could be vaccinated. But is now fully jabbed and 3 weeks post the second! Amazing weekend.
        I’ve copied her recipe from the email. It says margarine but this was the 70s I’m sure butter would work.
        German Baked Cheesecake
        125 gms margarine
        4 egg yolks
        300 gms sugar – for reduced sugar recipe we used 2 dessertspoons sugar.

        Cream above and add yolks.

        1 ½ lbs curd cheese (quark)
        1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
        2 tablespoons semolina – but in view of the gluten, in the past I have used ground rice, or even omitted it!
        pinch baking powder
        few raisins

        Mix well and add the raisins.

        Beat egg white until stiff and fold in to mix and bake for 1 hour on the bottom shelf of the oven, Gas Mark 3, then turn the oven out and leave to cool in oven overnight.

        Mum uses raisins, but I use sultanas as I think they are nicer. Shhh! Don’t tell her. xxx

        • Jennifer Jo

          Glad you got to spend time with family, and thank you for sharing your mom’s recipe! I’ve come across versions that uses cream of wheat in place of the semolina, but from everything I’ve read, the semolina seems to be the most authentic. I want to try it.

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